Google has widened the ambit of what can be removed from search results at the request of users. The Alphabet-owned company said it will now entertain requests for the removal of personal information such as phone number, email address, or physical address, in addition to any other information that can lead to identity theft.
Prior to this, Google allowed the removal of sensitive and personally identifiable information from search results along with bank account or credit card credentials that could lead to financial fraud.
Since October 2021, Google has also been accepting requests from users under the age of 18 or their parents/guardians for the removal of images from search results.
“Under this new policy expansion, people can now request removals of additional types of information when they find it in search results, including personal contact information like a phone number, email address, or physical address. The policy also allows for the removal of additional information that may pose a risk for identity theft, such as confidential log-in credentials, when it appears in search results,” Michelle Chang, Global Policy Lead for Search, said in a blog post.
Chang explains that Google will evaluate all aspects of a webpage and how they will be impacted if a content removal request is accepted. If the content is listed as part of a public record on a government website, removals will not be made, she added.
Several websites offer services where anyone can subscribe or pay to acquire the email and phone numbers of others. In most instances, the information is illegally shared and can be found through a Google Search.
Removing content from Google Search results doesn’t mean the content will be completely removed from the internet, warned Chang. It will continue to show in the results of other search engines. Users will have to contact the hosting site directly to request erasure.
The right to request the erasure of personal data is now guaranteed by data protection laws. For instance, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU allows online users to request the removal of content pertaining to them through right to erasure rules under article 17. It allows users to seek removal of personal data on certain grounds such as if it’s processed unlawfully or if the users withdraw consent for data processing, among others.
India’s Data Protection Bill (2019) also has rules that allow data principles the right to restrict the disclosure of personal data.